Sunak says he will allow Tory MPs freedom to rule over Johnson’s partygate fate

Rishi Sunak has committed to giving Tory MPs the freedom to rule over Boris Johnson’s fate ahead of his live grilling on whether he lied over partygate.

The Prime Minister said on Monday he would not exert pressure on his Conservative colleagues to go easy on his predecessor as he faces a possible suspension.

Mr Johnson is scheduled for a televised appearance before the Privilege Committee some time next week so he can be questioned over whether he deliberately misled the Commons.

If the cross-party group of MPs rules he did, they could recommend a suspension that may ultimately lead to a by-election for Mr Johnson in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

Rishi Sunak visit to US
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in San Diego for meetings with US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But speaking to ITV News during a visit to San Diego, Mr Sunak insisted he would not try to influence Conservatives on the committee not to impose a large punishment.

“That wouldn’t be right,” Mr Sunak said.

Asked if he was not concerned that a suspension of more than 10 days could trigger a by-election, Mr Sunak added: “This is a matter for Parliament, for the House.

“It’s not right for the Government to get involved.”

In an interim report, the committee said the evidence strongly suggests breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson during the partygate saga.

They are examining at least four occasions when he may have deliberately misled MPs with his denials.

But Mr Johnson, who was fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaching his own Covid laws, has denied lying to the House and says he expects to be cleared.

The committee will publish its findings and make a recommendation on any punishment, but it will ultimately fall to the full House of Commons to decide whether to approve any decision over Mr Johnson’s fate.

Mr Sunak also defended his predecessor’s massive earnings outside of Parliament, as analysis of official declarations suggest Mr Johnson has earned £4.8 million, mostly since leaving No 10.

The Prime Minister told Sky News: “There’s lots of different ways that MPs combine what they’re doing in Parliament and the other things that they pursue. It’s right there’s balance in that.”

He said there are guidelines from Parliament and “it’s right that they’re adhered to”.

A contrast was drawn between his firm criticism of Matt Hancock for jetting off to the Australian jungle to appear on I’m A Celebrity and his defence of the former Tory leader.

Mr Sunak said: “There’s a difference between physically unable to fulfil your job in the UK if you’re abroad for a long period of time and being able to do all the things alongside it. I think most people will appreciate there’s a difference there.”